Liberty want ‘75% of races on free-to-air’

Date published: May 25 2019

Spanish-GP-Barcelona-start-lap-1-2019-PA

Liberty Media will push for more free-to-air Formula 1 grands prix, but don’t expect any changes in the UK until 2024.

At present Sky Sports have the rights to broadcast Formula 1 races.

The deal, believed to be around £120million a season under a deal, runs until 2024 but it means viewers in the United Kingdom have to pay extra to watch Formula 1.

They can head to Channel 4 but that only shows delayed highlights and the British GP live.

With viewer numbers on the decline, Liberty Media’s commercial boss Sean Bratches says the sport has to return to free-to-air coverage.

He told the Daily Mail: “It concerns us in a pretty material way, not just for Britain but around the world.

“Our ideal circumstance would be to have 75 per cent of our grands prix on free-to-air.

“From a brand standpoint, Formula One is nowhere near the position where it can lose free-to-air viewership.

“This is an agreement that was done prior to our arrival. The pay element is very exciting revenue-wise but from a reach standpoint it is sub-optimal.

“I know Sky have done a parlay with Channel 4 to do the highlights, which we are encouraged about.”

But while Liberty Media may want more free-to-air F1, it won’t change before 2024.

Bratches conceded: “There is no wriggle room in our agreement contractually and Sky would have to initiate anything.”

He does, however, admit that a lack of free-to-air F1 is not the sport’s only problem.

Too many predictable races – highlighted by Mercedes’ run of five successive 1-2 results for this season – are also damaging Formula 1.

“One of the things we are trying to do is create less predictability in the sport. I am enamoured when Lewis wins but I would love to see some of the other brands on the podium.

“The bottom three teams in the Premier League know they cannot win the title, but they also know when they play Chelsea, Manchester City or Tottenham they have the opportunity to win or get a point, and that is not the case in Formula One.

“There is an opportunity to address that. We think the best days are in front of us. We have one of the most capable minds in the world on that in Ross Brawn. We put the fan in the middle of the table.”

Follow us on Twitter @Planet_F1 and like our Facebook page.